09 Dec

States have a responsibility to protect fundamental freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly. The international community should refuse to turn a blind eye to gross and systematic human rights violations committed against women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia. 

10 Dec

‘Women human rights defenders have flooded the streets, the airwaves, and the internet with their energy and their testimonials, bringing to light truths that are too often buried in darkness’ said a group of UN experts, recognising the important leadership role of women activists.

10 Dec

Today is Human Rights Day. Today is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It’s a day to say thanks and contribute to a better world through ISHR.

10 Dec

Major businesses have issued first ever call to protect civic freedoms, human rights defenders and rule of law in a landmark joint statement.

10 Dec

The United Nations agency committed to gender equality and women's empowerment honours the work of women human rights defenders. 'Those who defend our rights in turn need our defense' stated Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women. 

Reprisals | CEDAW endorses San Jose Guidelines on Intimidation or Reprisals


Human rights defenders must be able to access the UN freely and safely so that the UN can in turn do its crucial work of monitoring countries’ compliance with human rights obligations and protecting victims from abuses. At its last session held in July 2018, CEDAW endorsed the San Jose Guidelines. These guidelines are crucial for human rights defenders. Reports of reprisals and intimidation against defenders engaging with the UN are on the rise and treaty bodies must do more to address them.

The Guidelines emphasise the responsibility of States to avoid committing acts of intimidation and reprisals, and to ‘prevent, protect against, investigate and ensure accountability’. The Guidelines then spell out actions for UN treaty bodies to take when addressing reprisals, including raising concerns with State officials and relevant UN and regional human rights mechanisms, security measures on UN grounds, and exposing instances of reprisals through the media.

The Guidelines also call for focal points to be appointed in each treaty body to address allegations of intimidation or reprisals. The role of focal points is to assess allegations and determine the appropriate course of action. The CEDAW appointed Nahla Haidar and Gladys Acosta as its focal points.

The Guidelines were initially endorsed by the annual meeting of treaty body chairpersons in 2015. Until now, CEDAW was one of two United Nations treaty bodies that had not yet endorsed the Guidelines. The  Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) is now the only treaty body not to have endorsed the Guidelines.

Madeleine Sinclair, ISHR’s Legal Counsel and New York Office Director, praised CEDAW’s endorsement: 'Endorsing the Guidelines is an important step toward ensuring that defenders can engage with the UN without fearing attacks or intimidation, and all treaty bodies must not only endorse them, but also implement them to the fullest extent', Sinclair said. She added ‘It is crucial that all treaty bodies commit to the Guidelines and addressing reprisals and intimidation to the fullest extent—defenders engaging with the UN system should not face different risks depending on which treaty body they engage with’.

Contact: Madeleine Sinclair at

Photo: UN Photo Martine Perret


HRC Elections | How do the candidates for 2019 rate?


To coincide with the #HRCpledging events in New York and Geneva hosted by ISHR and Amnesty International, ISHR has published a 'scorecard' for each State standing for election to the UN Human Rights Council.

The scorecards offer a quick ‘at-a-glance’ objective comparison of the candidates, focusing on their cooperation with the Council, their support for civil society, their engagement with UN treaty bodies and Special Procedures, whether they have spoken out in concern about reprisals, and whether they have established a national human rights institution.

This year, a new criteria examines whether a candidate has taken a leadership role regarding country situations of concern or crisis - more specifically, whether the candidate initiated or significantly pushed an action which has raised at least two country situations in a qualitative and  informed way.  

It is now more important than ever for the Human Rights Council to ensure that it is the legitimate, influential body that the global human rights situation demands.

'If the Council is to fulfil its promise and mandate, it must be comprised of Member States that uphold the highest human rights standards and cooperate fully with the Council - as required by General Assembly resolution 60/251. Members must have a genuine commitment to promoting universal human rights and defending those who advocate for them,’ said ISHR’s Human Rights Council Advocate Salma El Hosseiny.

The scorecards and #HRCpledging events are an important contribution in this regard. The scorecards are intended to give a brief overview of the candidate’s relationship with UN mechanisms, and increase transparency in the elections.

However, ISHR acknowledges that data limitations and the need for objectivity mean that many of the criteria are concerned with form rather than substance.  

'For example, the fact that a State has accepted a high number of UPR recommendations says nothing about the extent to which recommendations have been implemented on the ground,' ISHR's Programme Manager and Legal Counsel Tess McEvoy stated. 

‘We encourage these 'at-a-glance' scorecards to be read in conjunction with the more in-depth reporting on country situations and human rights record such as the world reports produced by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and the election guide published by the Universal Rights Group,' said McEvoy. 

'More importantly, we urge voting States to treat human rights considerations as paramount in electing members to the Council, and to prioritise fundamental human rights over political or economic interests.’

Voting on candidates for the Human Rights Council will take place at the UN General Assembly in October 2018.  

Scorecards are available for:

Public pledges on a States’ candidacy are another valuable contribution. To date, the following candidate States have published a public pledge – Argentina, Austria, Bahamas, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, India, Italy and Uruguay

Scorecards from 2017 are available here

The sources and criteria for the scorecards are set out here and below:



Previous terms

OHCHR website, List of past members of the Human Rights Council

Submitted a public pledge on its candidacy

United Nations Documents Search

Pledged to strengthen Human Rights Council membership and adherence to membership standards

Signed the joint statement at the 35th session of the Human Rights Council presented by the Netherlands

Committed to applying an objective, human rights-based criteria in addressing situations of concern

Signed joint statement at the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council presented by Ireland, and by implication the joint statement at the 35th session of the Human Rights Council presented by the Netherlands, and/or otherwise made a public pledge to apply the objective criteria elaborated in these statements

Played a leadership role on country situations at the Council


Taken collective action to fulfill commitments regarding country situations at the Council - set out in the joint statement at the 32nd Council session presented by Ireland and the joint statement at the 35th Council session presented by the Netherlands - by demonstrating leadership with regards to at least one of the following, resulting in significant attention on at least two country situations: a joint statement, a resolution or a request for a special session. 

*This includes any country situation in respect of which the State has played a non-public leadership role resulting in collective action at the Council

Issued a standing invitation to Special Procedures

OHCHR website, Standing Invitations

Consistently responded positively to country visit requests (Less than 5 outstanding)

OHCHR website, Country visits and special procedures

*Country visits requests made more than 6 years ago without a reminder sent by the special procedures are not counted

Sent a reply to more than 80% of communications received from Special Procedures

OHCHR website, Country visits and special procedures


Accepted more than 70% of UPR recommendations

UPR Info website, Statistics of Recommendations:

Case of reprisals has never been highlighted in SG reports (2011-2016)

OHCHR website, Acts of intimidation and reprisal for cooperation with the special procedures

Spoken out expressing concern about reprisals

Signed the joint statement at the 30th session of the Human Rights Council presented by the Ghana:

And/or the joint statement at the 34th session of the Human Rights Council presented by Hungary:

The State has consistently sponsored Council and Third Committee resolutions on human rights defenders, civil society space and preventing reprisals

Sponsored more than 8 of the following resolutions:  Human Rights Council resolutions 13/13, 22/6 & 31/32 (human rights defenders), 24/21 (civil society space), 12/12, 24/24, 36/21 (reprisals), 25/18 & 34/5 (renewal of mandate of Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders); General Assembly resolutions: 66/164, 68/181, 70/161, 72/247

Ratified 10 or more international human rights treaties and protocols

Ratified 10 or more of the following international human rights treaties and protocols - ICCPRICCPR-OP1ICCPR-OP2ICESCRICESR-OPICRDCEDAWCEDAW-OPCRCCRC-OP-ACCRC-OP-SCCRC-OP-ICICMWCPEDCPRDCRPD-OPCATOP-CAT

OHCHR website, Ratification status

Has 3 or fewer outstanding treaty body reports

OHCHR website, Reporting Status


Has an NHRI in conformity with the Paris Principles (A-status)

GANHRI, Status of National Institutions


Sponsored both the Council and Third Committee resolutions on NHRIs

Sponsored both Human Rights Council resolution 27/18 and General Assembly resolutions 70/163 and 72/186

Contact: Salma El Hosseiny at or +41 79 596 76 75 (Geneva) and Tess McEvoy at (New York), International Service for Human Rights




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